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Canes to Roll with Hot Hand in Goal

by Paul Branecky / Carolina Hurricanes

With Cam Ward expected to miss at least the next month with a leg laceration, the Canes made a move to shore up the position.

Paul Branecky
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The team wasted no time in signing 36-year-old veteran goaltender Manny Legace to a one-year, two-way contract on Monday morning. Legace, most recently of the American Hockey League’s Chicago Wolves, is expected to provide competition to Michael Leighton, with Coach Paul Maurice indicating that the hot hand will earn the majority of the playing time while Ward is sidelined.

“We are going to see him play, and we’ll make decisions on what games those are going to be,” said Maurice. “If Mike or Manny get on a roll, you’re going to see them more and more. We’ve got lots of hockey here for the next month or so before we expect Cam’s return, and there’s going to be enough net for both guys.”

Maurice said that he would not decide on a starter for Wednesday’s home game against Los Angeles until after Tuesday’s practice, at the earliest.

Helping Legace’s case is the fact that, although he has not been in the NHL since last season, he did attend training camp with the Atlanta Thrashers and has played six games for the Wolves this season. His most recent appearance came Friday night, indicating that he should be in game shape when needed.

“For his situation, this is probably perfect for him,” said Maurice. “He’s been around the league long enough that he shouldn’t have the normal jitters of a guy coming into this situation.”

The Canes decided to turn to Legace, a veteran of 10 NHL seasons, rather than promote a goaltender from their own AHL affiliate in Albany.

“[Legace] is a proven winner who’s stopped a lot of pucks and is a veteran guy,” said Maurice. “We just felt it would be a difficult situation to bring a goalie out of the minor leagues from our system. We don’t necessarily want to put him through that, but we also think Manny can come in and stop some pucks for us.”

Legace was a starting goaltender as recently as last season for the St. Louis Blues and was selected to the Western Conference All-Star team in 2008. Prior to that, he won a Stanley Cup as a backup in Detroit and had a brief stint with the Los Angeles Kings. He was actually a draft pick of the Hurricanes franchise in 1993, back when they were the Hartford Whalers.

“The experience,” said Legace, when asked what he could bring to the team. “I’ve been on some pretty good teams in Detroit, and we didn’t have great teams in St. Louis but we were building and went through a lot of down situations. I’ve had both ends of the spectrum of winning a lot and knowing what it takes to win, and also having to battle for three years.”

Legace was a teammate of both Aaron Ward and Ray Whitney in Detroit, but knows many of the team’s veteran players simply due to time spent in the league.

“I played against [Scott Walker] when he was a defenseman,” said Legace with a laugh, referring to a positional change that occurred in 1996.

”I’m very familiar with him,” said Aaron Ward. “He’s the type of goalie who, no matter what the circumstances, he’s never really out of the play. He makes some acrobatic saves, and obviously has a pretty good track record as a solid NHL goaltender.”

The 5-foot-10 Legace, who describes himself as “a little midget,” has already made an appearance at the RBC Center this season, playing goal for the first half of the exhibition game against Atlanta on September 25. He was a free-agent tryout for the Thrashers, who did not sign him but allowed him to suit up for their AHL affiliate in Chicago on a tryout basis.

The tryout contract was appealing to Legace, who wanted to leave himself open in case an opportunity such as this should arise.

“I’m just happy to be here right now,” he said.

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